Monday, August 31, 2015

A Review of Katrina

There have been a number of articles over the last week or so revisiting the floods and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, now at its 10th Anniversary. Glenn Reynolds has a summing up at USA Today entitled "Lessons in disaster for the next Katrina." He raises five major points:

  1. The press did a lousy job. Which is putting it mildly. They outright lied and fabricated stories to make their reporting more dramatic, and to provide a basis for partisan attacks against President Bush.
  2. Crying wolf is dangerous. Reynolds notes that the media had sold so many storms as the "storm of the century" that people had stopped listening; thus delaying many from evacuating.
  3. Be prepared, because basically you are on your own. "When roads are flooded, washed out, blocked by trees and power lines, etc., it takes a while to get them back in order. That means you need to be prepared to get by for at least a few days — and, much better, at least a couple of weeks — on your own. That means having extra food, water, medications, fuel, batteries, etc. on hand. It also means getting along with your neighbors. For a few days at least, and maybe longer, they’ll be all the help you have."
  4. Really, when they tell you to evacuate, listen. 
  5. This will all happen again. 
There has also been linkage to older articles. For instance, this 2011 NPR article entitled "The Key To Disaster Survival? Friends And Neighbors." From that article:
Because of his own experience in Katrina, Aldrich started thinking about how neighbors help one another during disasters. He decided to visit disaster sites around the world, looking for data.

Aldrich's findings show that ambulances and firetrucks and government aid are not the principal ways most people survive during — and recover after — a disaster. His data suggest that while official help is useful — in clearing the water and getting the power back on in a place such as New Orleans after Katrina, for example — government interventions cannot bring neighborhoods back, and most emergency responders take far too long to get to the scene of a disaster to save many lives. Rather, it is the personal ties among members of a community that determine survival during a disaster, and recovery in its aftermath.

When Aldrich visited villages in India hit by the giant 2004 tsunami, he found that villagers who fared best after the disaster weren't those with the most money, or the most power. They were people who knew lots of other people — the most socially connected individuals. In other words, if you want to predict who will do well after a disaster, you look for faces that keep showing up at all the weddings and funerals.

"Those individuals who had been more involved in local festivals, funerals and weddings, those were individuals who were tied into the community, they knew who to go to, they knew how to find someone who could help them get aid," Aldrich says.
In other words, the public are the first responders.

Michael Grunwald has taken a look at the real culprit of the disaster, at least in New Orleans--the Army Corps of Engineers. One of the stories he points to is a Washington Post article from September 21, 2005, which noted that the flooding was because of faulty levees.

And, yesterday, I noted this article on "Katrina: What the Media Missed," which discusses not only the lies perpetrated by the media, but that the media missed one of the greatest stories of all: how the National Guard and Coast Guard worked very effectively to save thousands of lives.


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